Skill-based changes in motor performance from attentional focus manipulations: a kinematic analysis

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© 2015 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In the present paper, expert and novice law enforcement officers performed a handgun shooting task under varied attention-demanding conditions; outcome (i.e. accuracy, consistency) and movement kinematics were measured (i.e. within and between-trial variability (BTV) of forearm and upper arm absolute angle). Using a dual-task paradigm, we directed participants’ attention towards either a skill-relevant aspect of movement execution or to a skill-irrelevant distractor and compared their data to a single-task control condition. The results showed that experts’ BTV in their upper arm increased during dual-tasks relative to control, but performance was similar across all three conditions. In contrast, novices’ performance was poorer during both dual-tasks relative to control, but limited changes in movement kinematics were observed. This data suggests that attention demanding situations trigger experts’ ability to adapt their movement pattern to maintain end-point control. The data for novices are less clear. Implications for future research are discussed. Practitioner Summary: Expert and novice law enforcement officials completed a shooting task under baseline and attention-demanding situations. Experts outperformed novices under all conditions, but exhibited increased variability in their upper arm position while shooting during attention-demanding compared to baseline conditions. Novices’ movement data remained variable throughout all conditions. The data suggest that experts are able to maintain shooting performance during an attention-demanding situation by adopting a functional movement strategy.

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